Resident Evil Zero
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2013)|
|Resident Evil Zero|
North American box art depicting the protagonists Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen
|Developer(s)||Capcom Production Studio 3
Resident Evil Zero (バイオハザード0?, Japanese title: biohazard 0) is a 2002 survival horror video game that was developed and published for the GameCube by Capcom. It is the last installment in the series to fully embrace the traditional survival gameplay with pre-rendered backgrounds before the third-person shooter style that Resident Evil 4 brought with it. The game's storyline serves as a prequel to the first Resident Evil and covers the ordeals experienced by the police force Special Tactics And Rescue Service's Bravo Team and its newest member Rebecca Chambers. She investigates a series of murders and teams up with convict Billy Coen to survive a viral outbreak involving zombies. The player may switch between these two characters throughout the game to solve puzzles and to take advantage of their unique abilities.
The main gameplay feature of Resident Evil Zero, dubbed the "partner zapping" system, is unique to the series: instead of choosing one of two player characters at the beginning, there are two protagonists to be controlled throughout the entire game. The player may switch between police officer and medic Rebecca Chambers and convicted ex-soldier Billy Coen. If they travel together, either one of them can be controlled while the other character is handled by the computer. The player may also control both simultaneously or split them up entirely to explore areas separately. This, along with the protagonists' unique abilities, is central to solving the game's puzzles. Rebecca can produce medicals with her mixing kit but cannot sustain substantial damage from enemies. In contrast, Billy can handle heavy objects, use a lighter and has higher defense. Previous series installments had the player store items in boxes placed in fixed locations. Resident Evil Zero does away with this and instead allows them to drop items on the floor, freeing space in the inventory momentarily until they are retrieved at a later point. The locations of dropped items are displayed on the game maps.
On July 23, 1998, Bravo Team of the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS) police force is sent to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders in the Arklay Mountains outside of Raccoon City. On the way to the scene, its helicopter has an engine failure and crash-lands in a forest. Bravo Team discovers an overturned military police transporter and the mutilated corpses of two officers. After the team splits up to capture the murderer, field medic Rebecca Chambers finds a zombie-infested train and explores it. She teams up with former Marine Billy Coen, the convict who was escorted by the military police after he had been sentenced to death for killing 23 people. The two are confronted by a strangely clad young man who sets the train into motion and attacks them with swarms of leeches controlled by him. As the train speeds out of control, Rebecca and Billy apply the brakes and avert its course towards an abandoned building.
The location is revealed to be a disused training facility for future executives of the pharmaceutical company Umbrella. Rebecca and Billy find out that the corporation's co-founder and former director of the facility, Dr. James Marcus, had discovered the so-called Progenitor virus in the 1960s and examined its potential as a biological weapon. He combined it with leech DNA to develop the T-virus that causes rapid mutations in living organisms and thus transforms humans and animals into zombies and monsters. After Billy repeatedly saves Rebecca's life, he sheds some light on his past as a soldier: One year prior, he and his unit had been dispatched to Africa to raid a guerrilla hideout. When they arrived at their destination deep in the jungle, they found that it was an ordinary village. The unit's captain was afraid of returning empty-handed and ordered the execution of the innocent villagers, ignoring Billy's objections. Back in the United States, Billy was unjustly blamed for the incident and sentenced to death.
Rebecca and Billy eventually catch up with the leech-controlling man who is actually Marcus and the person responsible for the viral outbreak. Ten years ago, he had been assassinated under the orders of Umbrella co-founder Ozwell E. Spencer who stole his research to become the company's sole president. During his dying moments, Marcus' queen leech entered his body and revitalized it over the course of a decade, thus giving him a chance to take his revenge on Umbrella. Marcus mutates into a gigantic leech monster while the facility's self-destruct mechanism is activated. Just before the explosion, Rebecca and Billy defeat the creature by exposing it to sunlight. They escape to the forest where they see an old mansion used by Umbrella as a research facility. Rebecca assures Billy that her police report will list him as just another casualty of the incident. Billy thanks her and escapes as Rebecca heads towards the mansion to investigate the whereabouts of her fellow Bravo Team members.
While the original Resident Evil was still in development, the idea for a prequel came up shortly after the 64DD disk drive peripheral was announced in 1995. The 64DD's low sales four years later eventually made Capcom decide to develop Resident Evil Zero as a cartridge-based Nintendo 64 release. The real-time "partner zapping" system was designed to take advantage of the console's unique strenghts, namely the lack of load times prevalent in PlayStation games. After the script had been completed in early 1999, the production of a Resident Evil title for Nintendo 64 was revealed to the public by Yoshiki Okamoto, the president of Capcom's screenplay company Flagship. Resident Evil Zero was officially announced at 20 percent completion in January 2000, after which it was presented with a playable demo at Tokyo Game Show. The game was expected to release in July 2000 and reportedly had an atmosphere close to the first Resident Evil. However, development began to slow down when it became apparent that the data for Resident Evil Zero would not fit on a single cartridge.
Production then shifted to the newly announced GameCube, with the concept and story carried over but all of the data recreated. The platform change was confirmed in September 2000. The game's final version was developed by Capcom Production Studio 3 with support from outside company Tose. As a result of the transition to the GameCube, it was delayed so that the environments could be upgraded visually. Scenario writer Noboru Sugimura was called back to make some changes to the story. The character designs were also adjusted: Rebecca for example lost her beret and shoulder pads while Billy received a new hairstyle. The GameCube's use of optical discs reintroduced load times, so the programmers had to use sophisticated programming to make the "partner zapping" system work. Capcom announced its intention to release a game demo in Japan around August 2002.
Resident Evil Zero for the GameCube was released on November 10, 2002 in North America, on November 21, 2002 in Japan, on February 28, 2003 in Australia, and on March 7, 2003 in Europe. In late 2008, a Wii port with little to no changes was released exclusively in Japan, having deviated from its expected July release date. It was later released in North America under the Resident Evil Archives label on December 1, 2009. A novelization titled Resident Evil: Zero Hour was written by S. D. Perry. It is the seventh and final Resident Evil book to follow Perry's continuity but precedes the others in chronological order.
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Resident Evil Zero was generally well received by critics and has sold 1.25 million copies worldwide. However, many reviews were critical of some of the game's elements. 1UP.com felt that the game was predictable and formulaic in its puzzles, monsters and final battle. They also called the plot "lame". Regardless, the background artists' work was praised along with the item-dropping feature, earning the game a "B+" ranking. GameSpot focused on the "partner zapping" feature and pointed out that its strengths lie in strategy and puzzle solving. They believed that "the mechanic [did not] really feel very innovative or interesting", describing it as mostly puzzle-related but based around keeping one character standing still or sending items up a dumbwaiter to the other. Similarly to 1UP.com, GameSpot criticized the puzzle design further, noting similarities to previous titles. The Wii version was panned for not fully using the remote controller's capabilities such as pointer controls, instead relying largely on the Classic Controller. IGN gave it a "poor" 4.5/10.
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